I grew up in a predominantly female household.
My mother was a stay-at-home-mum, and I had one female sibling when growing up as a child.
My father, on the other hand, was the exact opposite of stay-at-home, working exhausting hours from Monday to Saturday; a typical business-owner-lifestyle.
Both my mother and father’s siblings were all female. My mother’s sister’s only child, was a daughter—and probably the relative to whom I was closest with.
The maths does not lie. I grew up surrounded predominantly by female individuals. Yet I do not recall feeling particularly surrounded by female energy.
Of course, one could argue that as a child I did not have the capacity to grasp such ideas and vibrations. However, I do recall the early realisation of living in a predominantly male world.
The realisation did not occur as a single, world-overturning event. The formation of such a worldview occurred via the accumulation of rather smaller acts.
Such formation was hidden in the simple things, such as witnessing my mother asking my father for money. Having to play quietly on Sundays since it was my father’s “day of rest.” And in how adults would think it was cute when my ballet teacher would describe me as “bossy” and “trying to be the leader.”
These examples may not seem particularly harmful at first. But in my father’s, how much money do you need‘s? I learned the narrative of the man being the provider of the family.
In the Sundays when I would have to be quiet, I developed a fear for the predominant male in my life—my father. Because the repercussions of not respecting his day of rest would be a lot of angry shouting and negativity. That was also when I learned to be quiet. When I learned to respect a male’s voice and space over mine.
In the entertainment that adults found—from the descriptions of a chubby little girl, dressed in a pink tutu—of me as a leader, I learned not to consider positions of power as a realistic career path.
I could go on forever describing the toxic lessons regarding the inferior role of women and heteronormativity taught by Disney princess movies, church, and even educational institutions at times.
The point is, that despite being surrounded by a plethora of females during my early years, I never felt empowered by any strong female energy or presence. Not even in the slightest.
As a result of all the “valuable” lessons I learned from princess stories, I was already able to separate boys from girls in kindergarten. Even though my kindergarten years were filled with marriage proposals and hand-holding, it wasn’t until the ripe age of perhaps seven, that I began thinking of boys that way.
I began to form cute crushes on the boys that acted manly and assertive; and rejected the ones that would build up the courage to confess their affection; disgusted by the weakness of such a display of their emotions. It wasn’t long after that that my wedding daydreaming phase began; planning the dream home, dream wedding, number of children, dogs, cats, and respectable, yet modest choice of career.
Of course, I was not immune to the horrifying hormone-infused teenage years; which, as expected, were the time when my focus on boys shifted from part-time to full-time. That naturally meant endless mouse-and-cat games with victims of all sorts.
Like most girls, I was desperate to find the golden pathway between being labelled as an easy slut, or an inexperienced nun.
I became so obsessed in my quest for that pathway that I successfully ignored any feelings of unsafeness, discomfort, and even physical pain. I allowed my body and gender to be completely sexualised and objectified. And conditioned myself to appreciate comments like, “your ass looks so good in those pants,” or “you look like you’d be good at giving head.”
The more I was blessed with such compliments, the bigger the pressure to tick those boxes grew.
The result: I had showered myself with so much self-worthlessness and unbearable pressure that I eventually developed a fear of forming a serious, deep romantic relationship with any guy; which resulted in my—sometimes brutal—rejection of some potentially decent human beings.
The most tragic part is, I was completely unable to fathom what was happening inside of me. Being the taboos that they were—and to an extent still are today—sex and my body were topics I was not able to discuss or learn about from a safe, trustworthy or experienced source; such as a parent or at school.
My continuous rejection of establishing a long-term, romantic relationship, led to a conquest of filling the void with multiple, less meaningful encounters. While some taught me things, most shredded not only my self-worth, but also my trust in men. It was not a case of guys treating me unfairly. It was a case of having completely lost my identity and connection to my inner self; which led to allowing my vulnerable being to undergo a series of pernicious situations.
In other words, it was my trust in myself around men that was lost.
It may come as no surprise that it took a friendly relationship turned into romance for that to change. Yet, no matter the amount of patience and understanding and communication, a part of me felt uneasy being called his girlfriend; and correspondingly calling him my boyfriend.
The boyfriend title may have brought some reassurance to surrounding people. But my father (being completely oblivious of my previous lifestyle) had a very hard time accepting that his 17-year-old daughter now had a boyfriend.
I was not allowed to stay over the night at his place, and he was not allowed at mine; thus kick-starting another series of mistrust and trauma. The blatant aversion that my father felt by the idea of me staying the night at my partner’s can only be explained by the utter demonisation of sexual intercourse. Instead of accepting it as a healthy and natural part of life, he decided to give me the silent treatment for two weeks; upon finding out I had defied his prohibition of sleeping at my boyfriend’s.
I could not help but feel that society—and especially my parents—deemed my sexual desires as something to be ashamed of.
Sex was dirty, the words “vagina” and “penis” were unspeakable; not to even mention masturbation.
Learning about my anatomy, watching porn, and experimenting with my sexuality were acts of rebellion, not of growth.
With every orgasm, every new experience, I sunk deeper into the state of guilt and shame; rather than build a healthy relationship with my body.
Consequently, I began to hate my body and feel uncomfortable with the idea of being sexualised. I stopped wearing short dresses or skirts or heels or anything of a feminine, risqué nature.
But after years of self re-discovery and patience, I have slowly found the courage to raise my middle finger to the sexualisation of my body. To the demonisation of my sexual drive or desires. And I’ve decided to reject the traditional, heteronormative ideals of a romantic relationship.
Because I have finally learned that I don’t own anyone, and nobody owns me.
My body is astonishing in its existence, and my femininity no longer a weakness, but my power.